Equifax Inc. named Mark Begor as the new chief executive officer on Wednesday, filling the slot held by an interim appointment since the retirement of Rick Smith in the wake of the company’s massive data breach.
Begor, who will officially take over April 16, has been a top executive in the private equity firm of Warburg Pincus since 2016. Before that, he was with General Electric Co. for 35 years, a career that included nine years heading GE’s retail credit card business, a unit that became Synchrony Financial, a publicly traded company.
He was also on the board of directors for FICO, an analytics company that provides credit scores for consumers.
Begor, 59, will officially take over the Atlanta-based company on April 16, taking the reins from Paulino do Rego Barros, Jr., who has served as interim CEO since September.
Last fall’s choppy transition came with the company facing national scorn for a data breach that resulted in access to personal information of more than 145 million people. That announcement sparked intense criticism and Congressional hearings and led to investigations by both federal authorities and state officials, including Chris Carr, Georgia’s attorney general.
In a statement, Begor made a oblique reference to the controversy, saying the company has worked to overcome the problems.
“The team has made meaningful progress in the last several months to address a number of well-publicized issues while continuing to focus on delivering differentiated new products and advanced analytics to support our customers,” he said. “We will continue to invest in and strengthen our IT and data security.”
Begor will receive stock and options valued at $17 million this year and an annual salary and bonus of up to $4.5 million, according to documents filed by Equifax with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The company views Begor’s selection as one that fits the challenge, said Mark Feidler, chairman of the board at Equifax. “He is a highly accomplished executive with a long track record of successful leadership across a variety of global industries relevant to our business.”
Despite the numerous investigations and some intense rhetorical disdain, the company apparently won some favorable provisions in legislation from Congress. And only one individual thus far has been charged with any crime in connection with the breach. Jun Ying was accused of trying to profit from selling stock before the news became public.
Humayun Zafar, a professor in information security at Kennesaw State University, said that, after the damage done to the Equifax reputation, the job that Begor has is partly about image.
“Obviously quite a bit of this is a classic strategy of being seen to do something,” Zafar said. “Based on what’s been made public, I think they have not moved the needle forward in any meaningful way that would restore trust.”
Ironically, during his tenure at GE, that company also suffered an extensive hack, Zafar said, although there is no indication that Begor was in a position of reponsibility for the systems breached.
Warburg Pincus, where he has been a managing director, analyzes and invests “to grow successful businesses in today’s dynamic environment,” according to the company’s Web site.
The current president of the firm is Timothy Geithner, former U.S. Treasury Secretary and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
Begor’s job with Warburg Pincus was to make “operational improvements across portfolio companies within the firm’s Industrial and Business Services group,” according to the Equifax statement.
Paulino will retire from Equifax in early 2019 after assisting Begor in his transition, according to a statement from the company Wednesday.
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